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Blackwell soil tests to be shared

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to provide the public with details on soil samples taken from the Blackwell Island Channel and will have a public meeting this spring.

A corps spokesman said last week the agency wouldn’t release any information on local businessman Duane Hagadone’s request to dredge the channel until after it made a decision on whether to grant a permit.

That caused outcry from some residents and a local environmental group that argued the project needs more public scrutiny.

Brad Daly, regulatory division chief of the corps’ Walla Walla district, clarified this week that the corps won’t release the actual soil test report to the public but will make a summary of the results available.

Daly said the report would be “too voluminous and technical” but that the public needs to know whether the soil contains toxic heavy metals, such as lead, which dredging could release into the Spokane River and the aquifer.

“We’re not going to hide the results,” Daly said.

The corps asked Hagadone to do additional soil tests before it decides whether to issue a dredging permit. Hagadone wants to deepen the channel to allow for larger boats as part of an upgrade to the existing marina.

Once the soil tests are complete and analyzed, the corps plans to have either a public meeting or an official public hearing so residents can comment on the proposal before a decision is made.

Hagadone also must request a permit from the state Department of Lands.

Daly said it might be possible to have a joint public hearing this spring.

Barry Rosenberg of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance is happy that the corps intends to take public comment and release an overview of the soil sample results.

“The public’s health and welfare could be jeopardized by this project,” he said.